Understanding a culture’s vernacular adopts new terms and drops outdated, I am nevertheless struck by today’s common change of meaning regarding well-settled entries in Webster’s. I’ve accepted I don’t know what others are thinking (tho that took me longer than it should’ve) and your perceptions of the words and phrases noted here might be very different than mine. I’m listing here words whose meanings seem to have changed substantially in these past years, after being associated with the same meaning for previous decades.
- Hoax – I remember this having a playful or temporary connotation. I didn’t understand why it was being used every day by the past president, but it feels like it was depicting a much more sinister, web-like threat. If I thought there would be a new world order and I was opposed, hoax wouldn’t be my choice of descriptor.
- Witchhunt – Most recent cultural experience with a “witchhunt,” in my mind, was the movie Shrek. Torch-carrying villagers drove him away. The 1980’s satanic panic was literally a witchhunt. Holding our highest public official to a high standard with transparency and accountability is not befitting the label ‘witchhunt.’ Again, this is my personal take.
- Fake news – It used to be I’d look at the cover of the National Enquirer and the like, while waiting in the line at the grocery store, to see what crazy notions they were pushing. That was fake news. The proliferation of misinformation in today’s culture is such that it would be very helpful to know which items are fake, false, phony. Unfortunately, the phrase ‘fake news’ now means only that ‘I don’t like what’s being said.’ Fortunately, the word ‘misinformation’ wasn’t appropriated in such a way as to make it meaningless.
- Patriot – Many words have more than one meaning, but in the past decade this one has been turned on its head for a significant portion of Americans. In my consideration, a mob breaking into the Capitol building, threatening fairly-elected government officials, debasing the center of the legislative branch, and beating police officers sounds like the opposite of patriot. If someone presents themself as a patriot these days, it’s meaningless without exploring the person’s usage of the word. Sad.
- Strongly, bigly, greatest, like you’ve never seen before – These words meant just what they said in the past. Now, seriously, when I hear someone on TV use ‘strongly,’ it sounds awkward. Overuse of braggadocio, again, renders it empty.
- Expectations of presidents – As President Obama’s second term was halfway complete, I wouldn’t have believed our next president, whoever it may be, wouldn’t listen to the cabinet or read intel, watching TV newstainment (speaking of new words) for information, hiring and firing on a whim, and reacting to EVERYTHING as to how he would be personally affected. Oh, almost forgot, I don’t think any of us thought it probable that a POTUS would lie to us every day of his term.
- Sharpie – Possible to use for signing documents and predicting weather. Who knew?
p.s. Ha! Went from here to Twitter and witch hunt is trending. FBI search based on court-approved warrant now equals a witch hunt. Buh-lieve me.